By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
Before I begin, I believe that an introduction is in order to explain exactly what I'm doing with this column and what inspired it.
I will put it simply: I enjoy good beer. I do not claim to be a connoisseur or some kind of expert. I am just a man who enjoys the taste of many styles of beer and appreciate their differences.
I love craft brewing and microbrews and thoroughly enjoy the way the industry has expanded over the years. It has created a veritable smorgasbord of tastes, bodies and styles of American beer that pairs nicely with the classic imported selections that vary from country to country.
My fiance, Eileen, also appreciates beer in the same way as I do.
As our wedding approaches, we have been trying to find unique -- and inexpensive -- ways to put personal touches on the reception.
One day, while sampling a beer that had a particularly unusual label, Eileen told me a story of how her cousin once used wine bottles instead of number cards to specify what table a person would be sitting at and suggested we do the same thing, only with something we both enjoyed: beer! On each table we could put a bottle of beer with a unique label to classify each table.
And so it began. Eileen and I have been sampling beer from breweries around the country and the world in order to not only quench our thirst for expanding our horizons and trying great tasting beer, but also to build our bottle collection, which stands now at 15 bottles of 22 ounces or more.
While doing research on what beers we might try, it struck me that Massachusetts has a great number of craft breweries and microbreweries, many of which are held in national esteem. The question I then asked myself was how many people know about some of the great beer that is produced right in their local area? Hence the idea for this column.
My goal is not to tell people what to drink and what not to drink, but simply to bring to our readers' attention yet another product made right here in Massachusetts. I will give my opinion on the beer, but as with anything in life, just because one person says something is great, the next person may not agree. Check out these beers for yourself. Expand your horizons and support local industry!
I was bold in my selection of beer to sample for this first column, but not as bold as the creator of the beer.
The beer is confidently named, "Beer of the Gods" and is the flagship product of High and Mighty Beer Company. High and Mighty is located in Holyoke with Will Shelton, formerly of Shelton Brothers beer importers, running the show. The beer is his recipe, but it, along with the company's four other beer selections, is brewed at the Paper City Brewery.
"Beer of the Gods" is sold in only two forms -- a keg and a 22-ounce bottle. Because loads of cash is not one of the perks of being a professional journalist, I sampled one 22-ounce bottle.
One thing I found disappointing is that while brewed in Holyoke, this beer is not available for sale in the city, according to the High and Mighty Web site.
In fact, the site lists bars and liquor stores throughout Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, Pennsylvania and Vermont, but the list includes very few businesses in the Springfield area.
Table and Vine in West Springfield, Granby Liquors in Granby and Big Y Liquors in Northampton appear to be the local businesses to sell it at retail, though the site also includes several bars and liquor stores in Hadley, Easthampton, Amherst and Northampton.
I picked up a bottle in West Springfield at a reasonable price of $7.99, plus bottle deposit and tax.
According to the company's Web site, "Beer of the Gods" is a German-style beer, claiming to be "as easy to drink as the best K lsch" (a very light and clear beer), "while still being as satisfying as a supreme Altbier" (a darker, hoppier beer). Still, while looking at it, some might classify this beer as more like an American ale, somewhat lighter than a lager. The way I see it, classification of beer styles can be especially ambiguous and as long as the beer tastes good, what does it matter?
With the name being what it is and having high expectations because of it -- I was a little disappointed when I first poured this beer. The head was lighter and thinner than most beers I am accustomed to drinking and almost made me wonder how old the beer was.
Also, while drinking the beer, the head stuck to the glass, leaving a thin, white film over the inside of the glass. However, the beer itself had a very nice clear, golden color to it that suggested a great deal of flavor lay inside.
The aroma of "Beer of the Gods" was light, yet pronounced, with hints of fruitiness.
Upon taking my first sip, I was delighted by how bubbly the beer was. It almost danced on the tongue. The beer had a very nice, light taste with only slight hints of bitterness. It was not overpoweringly bitter like an India Pale Ale, so fans of ales and light lagers would find it enjoyable, but it had enough bitterness so as not to leave someone who enjoys a bitter beer thoroughly disappointed.
The beer had a very nice finish and what seemed to be a fruity aftertaste that lingered on the tongue.
It also only has 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), which makes it a perfect beer for the occasional drinker. For those who aren't overly familiar with ABV or microbrews, Coors and Budweiser have 5 percent ABV, while Corona has 4.6 percent and Heineken has 5.4 percent. Sam Adams Boston Lager has 4.8.
I don't like using the term "refreshing" when it comes to beer. If you want to be refreshed, drink a glass of water. However, overall, "Beer of the Gods" was a very enjoyable beer that was easy to drink without sacrificing a lot of taste. This brew is perfect for summer time drinking out on the patio or on the front porch.
That said, given the lofty pedestal the High and Mighty Beer Company has put this beer on by dubbing it "Beer of the Gods," I expected something a bit more in the way of taste and body.
"Beer of the Gods?" Perhaps not. But a beer of men with good taste? Definitely.
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